Food spoilage is a major contributor to food waste. A third of all food produced globally is lost or wasted. There’s an urgent need to cut food waste to safeguard sufficient food for all and to reduce environmental impacts. The economic costs are huge too; across the EU food waste costs an estimated €143 billion, with two thirds of that being borne by households.

Our food spoilage research combines our extensive expertise in microbiology, genomics and food science to reduce food wastage caused by microbes. This focuses on Pseudomonas, the most common cause of spoilage in both animal and plant-derived foods. We are answering a major question of how Pseudomonas colonises foods.

Our approach is to identify current and emerging threats across the food chain from food production through to consumers. We’re working to understand how food spoilage microbes persist in the diverse range of environments in the food supply chain, such as in soil, in livestock, on food and in the home.

These environments have complex microbial communities dynamically interacting with each other. We use and develop new experimental and mathematical models to understand how food spoilage bacteria survive and adapt within food systems. Our research answers questions of how microorganisms use strategies such as antimicrobial resistance, metabolic adaptation and biofilm formation.

A BBSRC Discovery Fellowship awarded to Dr Laura Nolan is allowing her to develop a collaborative, translational programme of research understanding biofilm formation to prevent food spoilage.

Our food spoilage research is underpinned by our advanced microscopy facilities and sophisticated bioinformatics, metagenomics and genomic pipelines and tools, such as TraDIS, which we are continually developing to interpret genomic data and link genomics to survival strategies in the real world.

Ultimately, our aim is to develop ways to suppress food spoilage microbes in the food chain safely and sustainably and that avoid exacerbating antimicrobial resistance. This could include using bacteriophages, natural plant products, enzymes or competitive exclusion.

We have long-standing relationships with regulatory bodies and the food industry. We will ensure our fundamental and translational research leads to positive impacts in the food supply chain through further collaborations, delivering new tools and knowledge to ensure safe and sustainable food.

Research Leaders Working on Food Spoilage

Cynthia Whitchurch

Bacterial lifestyles

Webber group

Mark Webber

Investigating the evolution of antimicrobial resistance

Web banner yellow and white dishes on a green background. Plastic utensils. Ecological problem. Kitchen. Culinary blog.

Matthew Gilmour

Listeria and other invasive pathogens

Evelien Adriaenssens

Gut viruses & viromics


Alison Mather

Epidemiology, genomics and antimicrobial resistance of bacteria

Nicol Janecko

Campylobacter in the food chain

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